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Graduate Student Spotlight: Joel Betts

Published: Thursday, 18 Jan 2018
Author: Joy M Whitten
Department: Latin American Studies Center

Fisheries and Wildlife graduate student Joel Betts advocates food security and biodiversity conservation on communal river fisheries in the Rama-Kriol Indigenous Territory on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. Last summer, Betts was awarded a Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) Graduate Student Research Grant to conduct preliminary fieldwork on the Combined Effects of the Agricultural Frontier and Hurricane Otto on River Resources in the Rama-Kriol Territory.  He subsequently received the 2017 Rose Water Fellowship, endowed by Joan Rose, Homer Nowlin Chair in water research at MSU and awarded to graduate level scientists seeking to advance the field of water science. He was also recently recognized as a 2018 U.S. Student Fulbright Awardee for Nicaragua. 

The Rose Fellowship and the research stipend from the US Student Fulbright Award will fund an additional four months of remote fieldwork in 2018 in collaboration with a team of local guides and technicians. He will be working under CLACS core faculty member, Dr. Jerry Urquhart (MSU Fisheries and Wildlife) on rivers in the biological reserves in the rain forests.  Illegal deforestation, settlement and fishing have started to degrade water quality and fisheries in the region's rivers, to the detriment of the food security of the Rama-Kriol people. The recent Hurricane Otto has exacerbated these impacts. The fish and shrimp in these river systems are a critical protein source for these indigenous communities, and the river ecosystems are important to regional biodiversity.

Commenting on his future plans, Joel says:
I hope to continue to work in the area of aquatic ecosystem conservation in the Global South, whether it is with a non-profit, university, government agency or private contractor. I am passionate about this work on many levels as it is connected to major global issues that I believe are most pressing, and hope to work on throughout my career—from ecological conservation and climate change to political corruption, indigenous rights, and food security